The Best Things In Life Are Free(ish)

These last few weeks have been rather busy and what with work and Summer activities for TK, I haven’t had much time to write! Instead, last week, I tried to concentrate on filling out some of my Educational Resources pages with useful links but even that was far more time consuming than I anticipated.

Last week, TK spent three days at Karate Camp which she really enjoyed. Three days of Karate, Kickboxing, sparring, and weapons certainly tired her out and she loves her Martial Arts but by day three I think she had had enough. The week ended with an extremely grumpy Kid crying over the fact she hadn’t done too well in the end-of-camp ‘Nerf War’. Her Nerf Gun/Blaster/Thingy was brand new on account of the fact that under normal circumstances, gun-like toys are banned at my house. As a result, she wasn’t well prepared and kept jamming the mechanism. There was some foot stomping and crying but at the end of the day, a decent night’s sleep and a good ignoring of the behaviour seemed to do the trick. Considering the cost of the Camp, it was a rather expensive lesson in losing (un)graciously.reading challenge

At the beginning of this week we spent a little less money and took our first official trip to the Public Library as Home Educators. The Library Service’s ‘Summer Reading Challenge’ was in full swing, and with this year’s theme being World Records, there seemed to be a little more pressure than usual to get the kids signed up! I think the hope is that they beat the record for the amount of people taking part in the scheme but if I’m honest, I can’t be entirely sure: I was a little distracted from the librarian’s explanation by life size wall decorations of the World’s Tallest Man and World’s Biggest Horse. Caught up with wondering whether the first could comfortably ride the second, I zoned back in to sign-up questions from a lovely lady sitting at a table covered with card indices. I was slightly taken aback at the fact that in 2015, hundreds of children, with electronic library cards, are signed up to a reading challenge and then organised via card index but it seemed to be a working, if not particularly speedy, system.

I must admit at this point, with no small amount of guilt, that TK and I hadn’t used the public library for five years. Yes, you read that correctly: Five years. It’s not that we don’t have books (enough to open a small library!) but I have a tendency to buy the ones I want or make special purchases at Christmas. On top of that, I am very forgetful and have a bad habit of racking up late charges. Once she turned five, TK could pick what she wanted from the school library, so between one thing and the other, I was somewhat relieved to discover that we only owed a grand total of £1.80 and, although our library cards were suspended due to to under-use, the library was more than happy to reinstate them.

The library lady asked us the obvious questions (name, age, address) but then she asked which school TK would be attending in September. The Kid, still unused to giving the answer “I’m Home Educated”, looked to me to explain. When I did, the response was a lovely “well done you!” and it was nice to hear such support from a complete stranger. TK was obviously very proud and went on to pick books enthusiastically. One of her choices, an introduction to algebra from the Horrible Maths series, threw me completely (considering she is not a fan of numbers generally) and I began to remember how fantastic a free resource like our public library is. For no money whatsoever, a child can go to their local library, browse all the books (not just those sanctioned by the school governors) and check them out independently. They can search the library catalog, flick through magazines, take part in community activities, and ask questions of supportive and enthusiastic staff, all for no money. It’s quite amazing really.

With books proudly chosen and checked out, TK and I went for our first mother/daughter bra shopping session. Thankfully the whole thing was painless and we even managed to bypass the ‘fitting’ part thanks to my having the foresight to get the measuring done at home (as a point of reference, I used this, kid-friendly site to help). I am glad we got all that out of the way before we went shopping:applecamp1 While we were in the M&S changing rooms I overheard three separate mothers, tween daughters in tow, discovering to their frustration that first-bra fittings were by appointment only. This was, I’m sure, especially annoying due to the fact that the changing room assistant (who was taking the bookings and was clearly knowledgeable about the whole process) clearly had nothing in particular to do and surely could have taken walk-ins if she had chosen to. Not that it affected us of course: We completed our shopping and celebrated with milkshakes before heading home to put our feet up.

Ever-willing to try something for free, the end of this week was spent with my dear mother carting TK to and from Southampton at an ungodly hour in the morning to the Apple Summer Camp (I was working). The camp ran over three days in hour and a half sessions and involved the kids (aged 8-12) learning how to use Apple software to either create a short film or story book. TK chose to write a story and had great fun illustrating it on an iPad Mini, while making it clear that no one was to help (or even look over her shoulder!)

Despite the fact that the camp is clearly a marketing opportunity, not to mention the chance to develop early brand loyalty, I honestly couldn’t fault it: The staff were all fun, friendly, and enthusiastic, and all the children got free Apple Camp t-shirts, ID tags, a certificate, and a USB bracelet pre-loaded with their final creations. I went to the final session, where the kids had the opportunity to present their story books to the group, and the mad creativity of all of the children wasmacstore lovely to see. Literacy and research skills had all been utilised and developed, and for those who braved the presentation part, public speaking also came in to play. Originally, TK didn’t want to read hers to the group but I bribed her with the promise of a crepe, and she did a fantastic job of reading her story aloud. Considering everything learned and experienced by the kids taking part, I’d say it was a pretty good deal for a free activity (not including the petrol and the crepe!)

Overall, as obvious as it might seem to say it, I suppose the trick is to balance the things that cost us money with those that don’t. Of course, there are some things that you just can’t get for free (karate tuition being one of them) but the point is that there are plenty of learning and play opportunities outside of your home that needn’t cost very much. It’s probably not true that ‘the best things in life are free’ but with a bit of work and research, they can be ‘free(ish)’, and that’s not bad at all.

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